So my sweet Richard, who sadly passed away on 4/27/15 after an extremely difficult five years of serious, multiple ailments, and I would have been together 39 years on 9/23. We first met on 9/23/76 when my car broke down and I needed a tow truck. From where I was staying with a now dearly departed friend, Rosalyn, and her husband after just moving to Philadelphia in July of that year, I began calling tow truck services. After talking to four of them with not very good results because either they didn’t go out to where my car was pulled off the road, or it would take hours to get somebody to come out, I decided to try one last place, Bill Downey’s Exxon in Roxborough (a very wooded, hilly, western suburb of Philly). Bill answered the phone, took the information, said that he would get hold of his tow truck driver who was on his way back from Baltimore, and have him call me directly. Sure enough, about twenty minutes later I received a call from a very nice and polite guy who asked where I was at right then. I told him, he said that he knew where it was, and that he would come by in about an hour to pick me up.
I went downstairs to nervously sit in the lobby and true to his word he pulled up almost an hour later. I walked outside, heard the driver door slam shut and around the front of the truck walked this very skinny guy wearing dirty gray coveralls, and a train cap tilted backwards on a head of curly black hair. With a crooked grin and smiling eyes, while wiping his dirty hands on an equally dirty rag, he asked, “If I was the nice young lady who called for a tow job,” and I replied “Yes”, smiling sweetly back at this cute guy who resembled a young Clint Eastwood, ala Rowdy Yates from the old TV western ‘Rawhide’. He helped me step way up into the truck, jumped in the other side, and we then drove down to where the car was parked off the road along the Schuylkill River. After hooking it up we brought it back to the apartment house I was staying at and he parked it in the back part of the lot. He asked what I was going to do about the car and I said that I wasn’t sure. He asked if it was okay if could he come back after he finished work to take a look at the car and I said yes, just call me first so I can come outside to meet him.
I already had a dinner date set with a nice young man down the hallway so I was down at his apartment when I got a phone call from my friend Rosalyn saying that my tow truck driver was outside. She said that with a laugh because I had conveyed to her how cute he was. I told Don that I was really sorry, but I had to leave. He was a psychologist and although a really nice guy was kind of weird, so he asked if I wanted to take some food with me since it was all ready and that I might not be back. I said sure so he wrapped me up a few pieces of fish and a baked potato. He had been trying to get me on a date for weeks ever since we first met in the elevator so he definitely displayed his disappointment. I told him not to worry, that we would try it again soon. Mmmmm, that truly didn’t happen because it seemed that I had truly met my soulmate.
Then I went downstairs and out the back way to the parking lot where Richard was already looking at the engine of my old 62 black VW. Saying hello I watched for a few minutes as he looked at different things under the hood. He then gazed up at me, displayed that crooked smiled again, and asked if he smelled fish. I laughed, said yes, and would he like some. Still grinning he said that he hadn’t eaten any dinner yet and he was pretty hungry. So he ate both pieces of fish and part of the potato (I tossed the other half away). After a bit he said that he would have to take it over to where the gas station was so he could work on it there in his spare time and would I mind? I said with a little reservation – “no” – but that I needed to change clothes first (not wanting to jump on that dirty truck seat dressed up). So I hurried upstairs, changed from my skirt and blouse to jeans, a sweater, and sneakers. Back downstairs Richard took my hand and helped struggle into the truck because he already the VW hooked up. We then drove over to Ridge and Shawmont where Bill Downey’s Exxon was.
As he began driving me back to where I was staying he asked if I wanted to see his apartment. Oh no, red flags were raised. Who was this guy who I knew nothing about? Was he a murderer, a serial rapist, a complete maniac, who knew what? With a wary smile I said, “No, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable in doing that”. He laughed and told me not to worry, that he would be a complete gentleman, he just wanted to show me where he lived, so again with reservation I said, “Yes.”
When he opened the door to his apartment on Ridge Avenue and I walked in I was immediately assaulted by the biggest dog I had ever seen. This monster of a dog stood on her hind legs, put two massive paws on each side of my head against the wall behind me, thus pinning me securely. Then just as quick a large tongue came out and began licking my cheek……double yuk! Richard immediately grabbed the dog’s collar and said, “Tina, get down. Bad doggie.”
Tina? Doggie? No way I thought as my heart rate began to slow down.
After showing me the kitchen, dining room, and then the living room which had a full size Harley motorcycle parked against the one wall, he asked if I wanted to see the bedroom. Oh no, those huge red flags again sprang up. “Richard, honestly, I’m not that kind of a girl.” Once again he smiled, laughed loudly, grabbed my hand and said, “I told you, don’t worry. You can stand in the hallway.” as he tugged me along. I definitely stood outside the door, not even desiring to get near the bed.
The bedroom had guns and swords hanging on the walls with a full American flag spread on the ceiling over top of the bed. Shaking my head slightly I figured he was definitely some extremist, a terrorist, anything but the nice young man who wanted to work on my car and show me his bedroom. Needless to say, I was very anxious to get safely out of his deep, dark lair. He then safely took me back home. I thanked him and he said that he would call me when the car was done. Oh, and he asked polity if he could give me a kiss on the cheek and I said yes. What a guy!
Three days later he called and said the car was done. I asked him how much I owed him and he said nothing. No I told him, you will take something for your services. He laughed, said to pay him $10.00 for the part, but that the rest of the payment would be having dinner with him that coming Friday evening. I agreed and that was how we met to began nearly 39 years together. He always called me his ‘Independence Baby’ since we met in 1976 and told me later on that after he talked to me initially on the phone he told the girl at the desk he was calling from that, “I’m going to fall in love and marry that girl.”
Well, he was certainly right. We fell in love and, of course, as in any long time relationship it wasn’t all fun and games, lovey dovey stuff, but we did have love and in the end, that’s all that is ever needed. Soul mate is a difficult word to figure out because a person does meet many people in his or her life, along with numerous relationships. But then one does seem to connect with somebody on a much deeper level which he and I did.
I love you Richard, rest in peace my sweet. I’m sure that when my time comes to cross through those pearly gates you will be there with that same crooked smile, your hand out to take mine, and ask if he can give me a big kiss.